Regina Spektor “Soviet Kitsch”

Sire 2004

Is it unfair to call Regina Spektor a punk rock Tori Amos? Perhaps. After all, compared to about 95% of Amos’ work, “Soviet Kitsch” is all at once more daring, more relevant, and more original. Also, to see a woman behind a piano nowadays and compare her to Amos seems like kind of a cop out. Would anyone compare John Tesh to Ben Folds? It’s not likely—unless, of course, you despise Ben Folds.

Like Amos, Spektor has a strong, infectious personality, which shines through at every possible moment. Whether through her pouty vocal bursts in “Ode to Divorce”, or through her percussive exploits in “Poor Little Rich Boy”, or through the lumbering piano jive of “Carbon Monoxide”, Spektor always makes sure there is an outlet for the pure her. Unlike Amos, Spektor doesn’t wallow over interpersonal matters, but rather, she uses the observations and experiences of other people to relate her own feelings. A great example is the now-classic “Us”, which details the end of a relationship as if it were the fall of a nation.

The overall sound of “Soviet Kitsch” contributes to its classic feel. About 85% of the album is just Spektor and her piano—simple, beautiful, and timeless. Even with so little going on, the songs all sound rich and full and, well, complete. There is one song that is a balls-out rocker, called “Your Honor”, which features the great opening line, “I kissed your lips and I tasted blood,” followed by the wordless, childlike refrain that has made the song fairly well known. It’s not my favorite track on the record, but it’s certainly a fun song, and it’s placed in the sequence in such a way that makes “Soviet Kitsch” seem like a less-serious affair. Spektor may have a famously youthful approach to her singing methods and her playing of the piano, but her lyrics can get pretty heavy. From its title, one could guess what “Chemo Limo” is referencing, and it’s not a topic to kick around lightly. But her vocals on this song are some of the most playful on the album, especially towards the end, when she repeats the word “Style” over and over in her best smarmy television host impression.

“Somedays” closes the album in the classiest way possible. After a challenging (though in time, rewarding) second side, the song acts as a glance back on how the whole “Soviet Kitsch” journey started, kind of like the cool down from a quick, invigorating workout. It’s more of an emotional and a musical workout than what most people are used to, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t worth it. And I’ll bet Tori loves it. ****

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One Response to “Regina Spektor “Soviet Kitsch””

  1. Chris Says:

    Great review of an awesome album! 🙂

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